Australia to invest $800 million in boosting innovation

CANBERRA: Australia's government announced new economic policies Monday aimed at attracting entrepreneurs from abroad and promoting innovation in an economy that has slowed after a mining boom.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said his government will invest 1.1 billion Australian dollars ($800 million) in creating incentives for innovation and entrepreneurship and promoting the study of science, mathematics and computing in schools.

It is Turnbull's first major economic policy announcement since he ousted Tony Abbott as prime minister in a surprise September ballot of ruling party lawmakers.

The government will introduce a new class of visa for entrepreneurs with innovative ideas and financial backing to develop their businesses in Australia.

Foreign students who graduate from Australian universities with specialized doctorate and masters qualifications in science, technology, engineering or mathematics would be assisted to become permanent residents of Australia.

The government would also reform solvency laws. The current penalty period for bankrupts would be reduced from three years to one year. Company directors would also be given more protections from being held personally liable for a failed business, striking a new balance between encouraging entrepreneurship and protecting creditors.

The government plans to introduce new laws that would enable companies to access crowd-sourced equity funding to develop innovative business plans. Early stage investors in startups would be provided with tax concessions.

It said wants to encourage an "ideas boom" by promoting collaboration between business, universities and the research industry.

The government plans to explain next week how the policies will be funded as part of an update of Australia's worsening budget position. Low prices for key commodity exports including iron ore and coal which reflect China's slowdown have hit Australia's coffers hard.

Turnbull said appetite for risk in Australia was lower than in comparable countries. The study of science, math and computing in Australian high schools was declining, he said.